Two years ago, some of you might remember a very serious event that happened in London, England. Between 6 and 10 August 2011, thousands of people rioted in several London boroughs and in cities and towns across England. The resulting chaos generated looting, arson, and mass deployment of police.
After a week, 3,100 people had been arrested. An estimated £200 million worth of property damage was incurred. What caused the riots is a question that has caused a lot of debate. Lots of key ideas like racism, classism, and the declining economy have been discussed – as well as other factors like hooliganism and gang-culture.
What is important to note however, is the question of who the riots involved? Who were all these criminals who emerged all of a sudden on mass?
I don’t believe that everyone who looted or rioted or threw bottles at the police were bad people. I don’t believe that they would be the type of people that would break the law in any other circumstances. I don’t believe that most of individuals would have been able to carry out these acts on their own.
However, I do believe though that this was a significant mass of people who decided to go with the flow and participate in the riots, because they didn’t think that they had a choice. And this is my key point here. They did have a choice. They did have the ability to make a good decision, but many of them didn’t. For those people that got arrested, they now face consequences of having a criminal conviction next to their name. It limits their job opportunities, their ability of travel, not to mention the potential jail time or enormous fines that they may have faced. And this all came from following a crowd and making a poor decision.
To dig a bit deeper, I’m going to show you a clip from one of the most famous musicals of all time, West Side Story. It is a film set in 1950s New York that deals with a group of youth who aren’t always on the right side of the law. The scene I’m going to show you parts of is where the Jets gang are loitering on the street, they are visited by Officer Krupke who warns them not to create trouble. They then sing a song about how they have been forced to live this life of delinquency. The characters are saying in this number that they don’t have choices and that they are stuck in a world that expects them to behave this way. They have a stereotypically ‘bad’ childhood and have determined that they are going to be delinquent no matter what.
They are saying that in the papers are bad news about youth and teenagers, and therefore it creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. You tell us that we are bad, so we’ll behave badly. They are claiming that the environment they grow up in makes them naturally delinquents, punks and generally an annoyance. In this next part of the number, one of the characters pretends to be a psychiatrist as they hear more reasons for why they make bad decisions.
The characters blame their upbringing, completely removing all sense of agency and individuality from the equation. They blame society, they blame, their parents, they blame their upbringing, they blame everything but themselves.
In both these examples I’ve introduced you to characters and people who have made bad decisions. The point I’m making is that everyone has the ability to make decisions, no one has been forced to do anything, I believe anyone can rise above their circumstances. Don’t blame anyone else for the decisions that you make, you are responsible for your actions.
What can happen when you make good decisions is good things. That’s why we have the endeavour awards. I’m passionate about acknowledging you guys when you do the right thing. For the endeavour awards I put out a slip of paper and ask teachers to tell me who are the five or so people in their classes who are impressing them by doing the right thing. Who are the people making the good decisions, completing work to the best of their ability, participating and engaging in all classwork and being polite at all times.
I was seriously thrilled by the outcomes. There were so many different people acknowledged that it is clear that all of you have clear strengths in different areas. The 17 names I am going to invite forward in a moment were acknowledged by at least five of their teachers. This represents consistently doing the right thing across the board and its a pleasure to recognize this in this forum.
Congratulations to: Nikaiah Basabas, K’Shana Fa’amasino, Jan Galera, Lateefah Idris, Islam Khaled Abbas, Simon Little, Stella Lu, Hayley Luckin, Audrey Martinez, Daphne Martinez, Tiana Moon, Ben Murdoch, Tharushi Nanayakkara, Josh Steele, Salote Taufa, Rebekah Tiongson, Siana Whatarau.
On a final note, a new Year 9 for 2014 is being enrolled at the moment, time is moving quickly, remember to savor it. You guys only have one shot at Year Nine so make the most of every opportunity and every decision you make.